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Macron pledges more support for locked-down students

January 21, 2021

French university students have protested against the financial and psychological effects of the lockdown. The French president has promised to allow a very limited return to campus.

 French President Emmanuel Macron talks with students at the Maison des Etudiants (Student House) of the Paris Saclay University in Saclay, near Paris
Students say they are facing psychological and financial hardship from the university closuresImage: Yoan Valat//REUTERS

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday pledged more support for students affected by university closures.

Students had protested on Wednesday against campus closures as part of coronavirus restrictions, calling for a resumption of in-person teaching. They rallied against the financial and psychological effects of the lockdown.

In response, Macron promised that all students in France would receive two meals a day for €1 ($1.21) each, and be given subsidies to pay for professional counseling.

He also called for some relaxation of closures, saying he'd ask universities to consider allowing students on campus for one day each week — so long as they could maintain social distancing. One change in this vein is already in progress, with first-year students to be permitted to attend half-size classroom tutorials starting next week.

"Given what your generation has already gone through, we cannot but take into account your right to some on-site presence, to exchange with your teachers, and to meet with other students," Macron told students at the Paris-Saclay University.

He said this would be "complicated," but that he trusted the universities could find a way.

Young people and the pandemic

Restrictions here to stay

However, he dampened hopes of lifting the lockdown entirely, telling students the COVID-19 restrictions would not be removed any time soon.

"We will have a second semester with the virus and many restrictions," he said.

He urged students to look out for each other and help fellow students cope with stress and depression caused by the restrictions.

"You need to take care of each other," he said, while acknowledging that students were deprived of the chance to make new friends and establish relationships.

Students are still affected by a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. nationwide curfew and fewer options for student jobs.

Scientists in France have called for the imposition of another strict lockdown, with the country facing a renewed rise in infections.

aw/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)